Despite court’s declaration of collection of toll on the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge as illegal, ENCOMIUM Weekly can authoritatively tell you that the Lagos State government has not ceased collecting tariff from motorists.
From the day the judgment was delivered by the presiding judge of the Federal High court in Lagos, Justice Saliu Saidu on Thursday, March 27, 2014, to the time of filing this report (Monday, March 31, 2014), collection of N250 toll fee continued, with no plan to halt it.
THE COURT VERDICT
Justice Saliu Saidu, on Thursday, March 27, declared the collection of toll illegal, stressing that from all the documents before the court, the only justification for the toll was the public private partnership law. He said further that the law cannot apply to the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge as it was built with state funds without any private partnership involved. The court also held that the power of control of all navigable waterways in Nigeria rests in the federal government.
MOTORISTS BERATE LASG
Motorists have berated Governor Fashola’s administration for defying the court order. Some of them who spoke with ENCOMIUM Weekly said shortly after the judgment, armed policemen were deployed to the point of collection in order to ensure the payment of toll. They described the act as undemocratic, saying that the government must obey the court order.
“Court has nullified the collection of toll, why are you still forcing people to pay?” a motorist, who identified himself as Gbenga Dada told ENCOMIUM Weekly, he asked the toll attendant, who said that it’s only her employer, Lagos State, that can stop her from collecting the toll. The angry commuter reluctantly paid, because of what he termed as “numerous benefits of using the bridge.”
According to him, the bridge is a short cut to link Lekki from Ikoyi instead of passing through Victoria-Island. It saves time with little or no traffic and the stress of having to come to turn around.
Another commuter, Otunba Adedayo commended the judge and Barrister Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, the counsel in the suit, calling on Lagosians not to pay.
Adedayo said, “It’s my regular route but I’ve not passed there since the judgement was delivered, but if I pass there and I am asked to pay, I won’t pay them kobo! I will rather cause traffic, because I am not going to pay, and I won’t turn back. I know my right and my right is not to pay.”
‘Nigerians should resist any attempt to pay toll’ – BAR. EBUN OLU-ADEGBORUWA
Human right activist, Barrister Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa condemned the State government for forcing motorists to pay after the court had declared it illegal. He therefore urged Nigerians to resist any attempt by the government to force them to pay .
He said, “Government is expected to set a good example for the citizenry by following the rule of law. Even though they want to appeal the judgment, they still have to obey the court verdict, otherwise, they are inciting people to lawlessness.
It’s totally condemnable to be collecting toll that has been cancelled by the court. Except and until the appeal is granted, they must obey the rule of law.”
‘Government can continue collection of toll, but…’ – FRED AGBAJE
Seasoned lawyer and human right activist, Fred Agbaje commended the judgment, saying that he knew the state would lose the case because collecting toll on the bridge is not backed by law.
Explaining whether the state has violated court injunction for not stopping the collection of toll, Agbaje said the state can continue since it has filed an appeal against the judgment. He, however, said motorists can resist to pay if they wish, since there is a court verdict that declared payment illegal.
Speaking further, Agbaje said, “In the interest of the government, it’s better for them to halt the collection rather than being arrogantly and stubbornly collecting money from innocent motorists, because if at the end, the Appeal Court upholds the judgment, how would they pay back all the innocent Nigerians that have plied that bridge in the last one year? But it’s easy for them to charge the person that filed the suit for the loss if they eventually win at the Appeal Court.”
LAGOS STATE WILL APPEAL THE JUDGEMENT
All effort to get the Lagos State government react to the development proved abortive, as the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye didn’t pick our calls. He also didn’t respond to our sms, seeking clarification on the present state of the verdict. Meanwhile, at a press conference held shortly after the judgment in Alausa, Lagos, Ade Ipaye noted that the state government would appeal the court decision immediately.
According to him, “We are therefore filing an appeal as well as an application for stay of execution immediately.”
HOW THE STRUGGLE BEGAN
In May, 2013, Governor Babatunde Fashola commissioned the 1.358 kilometre Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge, Victoria Island, Lagos, during the commemoration of his sixth year administration in Lagos. The bridge gulped N29 billion and was officially opened to the public on July 1, 2013.
After explaining several benefits of the cable bridge, the governor rolled out categories of tolling, which included the following: Class 1: Saloon cars; N250, Class 11: Mini-vans, SUVs and light pick-up trucks; N300, Class 111: Non-commercial buses with maximum seating capacity of 26 person and Class 1V: Motorcycles with 200CC capacity and above; N1,000.
Following the announcement, human rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, filed a suit before a Federal High Court in Lagos, against the Lagos State Government over the collection of toll at the Lekki-Ikoyi Suspended Bridge.
Olu-Adegboruwa sought for an injunction restraining the government from collecting any toll from motorists on the bridge.
He argued that the toll is uncalled for in view of the hardship, hunger and high rate of unemployment in Nigeria.
He claimed that the bridge was built on a federal navigable waterway belonging to the Federal Government.
– RASHEED ABUBAKAR